Forget Dynamic Island, Android should be pinching iOS 16’s Focus features

Apple iOS Focus Feature Angle

Robert Triggs/Android Authority

Move over Dynamic Island, there’s a much more useful feature hidden in Apple’s latest iPhone that should make headlines. I’m talking about Focus and its new customizable lock and home screen options. After spending a week with the iPhone 14, I am convinced of it the Feature that Android should emulate instead. And the sooner the better.

For a little background, Focus was introduced with iOS 15, allowing you to choose when you want to receive alerts and notifications, from whom, and from which apps, depending on the Focus profile you choose. Of course, Android phones also have detailed do not disturb options with app, call and contact exceptions, and focus options embedded in Digital Wellbeing. However, Focus’s many profiles are right at your fingertips and are more customizable so you can manage your personal time, work, exercise, sleep or whatever’s on your mind’s eye.

Focus is like multiple desktops for work, play, and more.

Fast forward to iOS 16, Focus has been updated to add home and lock screen customization into the mix, giving you control over apps, widgets and more depending on your current Focus. It’s like having multiple desktops or user modes that you can activate at will or set to specific times or locations. This is particularly useful given how cluttered iOS home screens often get, but it would work wonders for Android too.

Focus works for you

iOS Focus Profiles

Robert Triggs/Android Authority

For example, having two different home screens for work and play is a breeze. Especially since a Work Focus can automatically turn on 9 to 5 Monday through Friday or when you reach the office, keeping social distractions at bay during work hours and hiding work apps when you’re not working. You can also go deeper; iOS 16 introduces filters to select specific calendars or inboxes to show only when you want to see them. How I love not to see my work calendar on weekends (sorry boss).

I’ve set up a system where the home screen shows my business apps like Slack and Asana when using work focus, and hides social distractions like Discord, Reddit, various YouTube services, etc. The positioning of calendar and mail inbox widgets front and center is of course also useful, but I don’t need this info so easily in the evening. Switching to my personal focus reverses the situation by silencing notifications from Slack and completely removing work-related apps from my home screen.

How I love not to see my work calendar on weekends.

You can still access all your apps through the app library, but it’s nice to be able to turn off the noise and focus on what you want to get done at different times of the day.

However, you can and should go further with focus adjustment. Thanks to the lock screen integration, for example, you can now only show the fitness widget when you need it. Couple that with a dedicated home screen with fitness and music widgets right where you want them, and muting all but the essential notifications can help you focus on lifting weights or the treadmill at its best to beat. Pleasingly, the Fitness Focus starts automatically when you start working out, but you can even have it ready when you show up at the gym by setting a wake location too.

Context-aware switching, such as B. starting a workout or getting to a location, makes Focus even more powerful.

Apple has presets for Driving, Fitness, Gaming, Mindfulness, Personal, Reading, and Work, but you can create custom focuses to your liking. Put simply, the new and improved Focus is a very elegant way not only to improve your digital well-being by eliminating demanding notifications, but it can also optimize your productivity by granting faster access to the things you need, when you need them they need.

Android could focus better

Android Samsung Galaxy do not disturb

Robert Triggs/Android Authority

As good as Focus is with iOS 16, there’s plenty of room for improvement. We’re talking Apple here, so the number of lock and home screen widgets is limited. Focus filters are incredibly useful, but again, you’re limited to the few apps and services that Apple supports. You’re out of luck if you want to crop a third-party calendar or mute specific conversations from third-party messaging services. At least for now.

Apple has a focus filter API for developers, but none of the apps I’ve tried have caught on. In the future, third-party calendars, email clients, messaging services, and more could leverage focus filters for even more granular control. However, this requires apps to expend the development effort to implement another API for another Apple service. That is certainly not a matter of course.

Android could go even further with contextual screens for assistant, smart home, and other features.

When it comes to matching and building on Apple’s implementation, Android Digital Wellbeing’s focus options simply lock out apps and have no conversation controls; It’s not nearly as powerful as completely reconfiguring your home screen based on what you’re doing. To be honest, I don’t think expanding digital wellbeing is the way to go anyway – the real benefit lies in both productivity and the elimination of distractions. Instead, Android could improve on the idea, using its broader capabilities, which are already more flexible than Apple’s.

For example, Android already has powerful permission-level control over notifications. I don’t want to tell Google’s engineers how to do their job, but binding notification toggles to different DND profiles would be really helpful. For example, it would be convenient to keep signal call notifications on but turn off messages while you work.

iOS focus filter

Robert Triggs/Android Authority

The existing Bubbles API, which is admittedly not great, also opens up access to specific contacts and groups in third-party messaging apps. Leveraging this could allow Android to offer much more powerful per-app conversation controls than Focus currently uses, without having to invent another API for developers. The basics for app, location, time, and other filters are already in place because wizard routines already use them. Of course, integrating DND profiles with Google Calendar, email accounts, and multi-desktops would require a bit of work. But before Android 14, there’s still plenty of time to get that done, right?

Android already shares a lot of features with Focus, but they’re scattered all over the place.

That’s perhaps not too optimistic. Google is no stranger to the benefits of contextual user interfaces, as evidenced by our leaked look at the broken Smartspace lock screen. It experimented with ideas like a “goodnight” chip with relevant smart home controls, a card to set up your morning alarm, and meditation sounds from Headspace. You’ll also find context-aware customization with ideas like Samsung’s Bixby routines for changing lock screen shortcuts and more, so the roots are there, but they should get more ambitious. Having spent some time with Focus, I can now imagine how useful it would be to combine DND-like profiles with Smart Home, Assistant and other features that are currently outside the scope of Apple’s implementation.

Want Apple Focus-like features on Android?

62 votes

After a week with the iPhone 14, I’m convinced that customizable contextual locks and home screens are something I want in my mobile life. iOS 16 hasn’t perfected the formula, and the typically more open nature of Android features could yield a powerful contextual UI that not only improves our focus, but also makes our devices a little bit smarter. I can already say that I will miss Focus now that I’m switching back to my daily Android driver.

Next: Apple iPhone 14 in review Forget Dynamic Island, Android should be pinching iOS 16’s Focus features

Chris Barrese

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